Emma Ashmere

writer | author | novelist

Category: News

Author interview on Wordmothers

Hello there,

This interview has just been posted on the wonderful Wordmothers site:

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?

I wrote the beginnings of stories as a child. When I was in my twenties working as a cook and travelling overseas, occasionally a typewriter would come my way. I’d eagerly perch it on a fold-down wall-bed but didn’t know where to start. When I returned home to do a BA in the 1990s, I attempted my first ‘proper’ short story. In the late 1990s I enrolled in the newly established Creative Writing MA at the University of Adelaide. I remember sitting in the first class in the stifling February heat, knowing that was where I was meant to be.

Read the full interview here
DSCN0984
Some of Emma’s short story publications

Emma Ashmere’s short stories have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Spineless Wonders, Review of Australian Fiction, Sleepers Almanac, and on Brisbane billboards for #8wordstory. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize, 2019 Newcastle Short Story Prize, and 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 MUBA Prize.

Advertisements

More reviews of The Floating Garden: Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Echo, The Advertiser etc

Hello there, Am very pleased to see a review by Cameron Woodhead made it into the Short Fiction section of today’s Sydney Morning Herald and also The Age.
THE FLOATING GARDEN – EMMA ASHMERE – SPINIFEX PRESS AUD $26.95
Transporting us to Sydney in the 1920s, The Floating Garden takes place in streets set to be demolished to make way for the famous Harbour Bridge – a neighbourhood populated by working-class folk, bohemians and shadier characters. Among those in line for eviction is Ellis Gilbey, a landlady who moonlights as a gardening columnist (under the pseudonym Scribbly Gum). Confronted with losing everything she has, Ellis relives her flight to Sydney as a teenager, where she was taken in by a theosophist called Minerva Stranks. Just as all of Ellis’ lodgers have taken their leave, an artist arrives, seeking sanctuary from her abusive husband. Emma Ashmere’s debut is a beautifully detailed historical novel, full of tenacious and likeable women asserting themselves through guile. Finely crafted, The Floating Garden is at once an elegy for the forgotten and a subversive counter-history to the tumult of rapid progress. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/short-fiction-reviews-peter-stamm-emma-ashmere-sarah-armstrong–russell-guy-20150511-ggx3n4.html#ixzz3aFQ0S2PZ

A Review in the Northern Rivers Echo:
The Floating Garden By Emma Ashmere
Reviewed by: Lisa Walker
The Floating Garden
is the debut novel by Northern Rivers local, Emma Ashmere. It is set in Sydney in the 1920s, where the arches of the Harbour Bridge are still making their way through the air towards each other. Down below in Milson’s Point, a colony of misfits are losing their homes as construction proceeds. The Floating Garden interweaves the stories of two women. Ellis is an eccentric who runs a boarding house for women and girls while Rennie is an artistic Englishwoman in an unhappy marriage. When Rennie plucks up the courage to leave her abusive husband, she finds a temporary home in Ellis’s guesthouse, which is about to be demolished. Both women look to each other to provide security – Ellis needs money, while Rennie needs a bolt-hole to hide out from her husband. As her Milson’s Point home disintegrates, Ellis relives her escape to Sydney at the age of sixteen. Her unlikely saviour was the charismatic, scheming theosophist, Minerva Stranks. She also hints at a troubled liaison in the past with Minerva’s protégé, the fragile Kitty. I loved so many things about this book, but the characters were especially delightful. Ellis has many secrets, not least of which is her anonymous authorship of a controversial gardening column under the name of Scribbly Gum. The flamboyant Rennie hails from a life of privilege and has a hard time adjusting to her new circumstances in the poorer part of town. Her effort to blend in and cope with her situation provides a subtle touch of humour. I also enjoyed learning more about theosophy – a spiritual belief system which was very popular in the 1920s. An early review has compared this book to Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet and there certainly are some similarities. Both books explore the wider events in society through the lens of the people affected and both focus on a working class group of colourful individuals. Like Tim Winton, Emma Ashmere has a fine hand with exuberant Australian types. The author has a PhD focusing on the use of marginalised histories in fiction and her novel does a superb job of bringing this fragment of our past to attention. The Floating Garden is a beautifully written, gently humorous and highly detailed slice of history. It also has an absorbing storyline which kept me turning the page. photoNREchoreview

A Review in the Adelaide Advertiser 5-7 June 2015
Reviewed by SUE GOULD **** (4 stars)
This captivating debut by Adelaide-born writer Emma Ashmere…teems with charlatans, eccentrics and those doing it tough in a time of hardship and prejudice. Yet Ashmere weaves a sense of hope and redemption as her characters seek to rediscover their true selves.

Jessica White’s review of The Floating Garden
With its pellucid prose and descriptions of gardens and early 20th century spiritualists, I loved this novel… It focuses not on the arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but what happens at its feet. The setting suggests that we should not always focus on dominant, obvious narratives, because what happens in their shadow is equally interesting…This sumptuous book was a joy to read.
Read the full review here.

Review by Lisa Hill ANZlitlovers – The realisation in prose of 1920s Sydney is as unforgettable as the characters.  I loved the vivid descriptions of the market and the ferries; the sights and scents of lush plant life; the mud, slush and sordid decay of the houses; the sun-drenched views of the sea and the sky;  the shadowy dangers that lurk in the cramped dark streets and the temptation of oblivion in the deep waters of the harbour. Without idealising poverty, Ashmere depicts this Sydney as a place for the marginalised and eccentric… ANZlitlovers

A review in the Byron Shire Echo by Sarah Armstong
Emma Ashmere’s writing is subtle and lyrical, beautifully crafted and wise. The best books seem so complete, have such integrity, that we can’t imagine them existing in any other form, and we forget that they may have taken many drafts to get to this point.
Read the full review here.

A review on Whispering Gums by Sue
…What I particularly enjoyed about the novel is that Ashmere does for the underprivileged of 1920s Sydney what Ruth Park did for the 1950s in Harp in the south. They are very different books in terms of their narratives and themes, but both exude warmth and sympathy for their motley crew of marginalised characters, and both are valuable for their social history.
Read the full review here.

A review on Booklog for Charlotte

It’s impressive that these disparate narratives come together so naturally to enrich each other. What a wonderful book:

Read the full review here.

The Floating Garden on Radio National

Hello there, It’s been a big week with my debut novel The Floating Garden being published by Spinifex Press. What a wonderful feeling to sign books for people and watch them being walked away under their arms. The book launch itself was almost sunk by wild weather and surrounding floods, but there was a last minute plot twist in store – complete with happy ending. Thanks to some local ingenuity, an impromptu ‘silver lining’ mini launch sprang up, with a burst of sun.

Earlier in the week there’d been a dash to the Lismore ABC studios to record an interview with Sydney-based Kate Evans for Radio National’s program Books Plus. Kate asked some wonderful questions. It was fantastic to be asked on to the show.

You can listen to a podcast here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksplus/ashmere/6449436

Emma Ashmere’s short stories have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Spineless Wonders, Review of Australian Fiction, Sleepers Almanac, and on Brisbane billboards for #8wordstory. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize, 2019 Newcastle Short Story Prize, and 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 MUBA Prize.

Batemans Bay Writers Festival 5-7 June

Hello there,

The Batemans Bay Writers Festival program has just been released – see the full program here. A great line up of writers, poets, playwrights, musos, and researchers will be spending the long weekend in that beautiful part of the world – including: Julie Janson, Susan Wyndham, Linda Jaivin, James Bradley, Gabrielle Lord, Graeme Simsion, and Anne Buist. I’ll be joining Jeff Apter and Julia Prendergast to present a workshop on the joys and challenges of ‘creative research’; and will also be giving an author talk about the art, books, people, and politics that inspired my new novel The Floating Garden.

The festival was a sell out last year – hope to see you there!

On short stories: Make every word count

On short stories: Putting the only words in the only order

Short story writers are often told to ‘make every word count’. But what does this mean? And how can we identify and winkle out those sluggish words, clichéd ideas, and flaky images that once seemed so vital, original and essential in our own first drafts?

Mark Twain allegedly lamented to a friend he’d wanted to ‘write a shorter letter but didn’t have the time’. If the single defining element of the short story is its brevity, then precision is everything. And like any finely-tuned motor skill, precision takes practice and patience. Of course longer forms also depend on exactitude, but there are simply less places for dead ends or missteps to hide in a more concentrated hit of words. According to Mel Campbell ‘anyone can noodle on for 10,000 words, but it takes creativity and discipline to express oneself within word limits.’

Word count can be both friend and foe. A 500 word cap challenges the writer to keep on track, but that track still must offer an arresting glimpse of life, relationships, the world etc. On the downside, enforced limits can cramp your style. When a piece balloons over its allotted space, there are probably only two options. Keep it for another occasion when word limit isn’t an issue. Or cut.

Ali Smith talks about needing to find your own ‘balance between instinct and edit’. For some stories less will be more. For others, less really is less. Multiple ideas, extravagant details of setting and mood, the number of characters, or quirks of voice might be the very elements you’d hoped would hook and haunt the reader. Lose those hard-wrought surprises and idiosyncrasies, and the story risks diluting into ordinariness. If a story keeps buckling against the word limit, there’s no going wider. So go deeper.

Kurt Vonnegut said every sentence must either ‘advance the plot’ or reveal something compelling about the character. If I think a story is worth redrafting, one of the most useful questions is: ‘do I need this?’ First lines, last lines, dialogue, heavy-handed or colourless titles, characters’ names, favourite phrases – nothing is safe from the scalpel. Openings must act as irresistible invitations to read on, however Jennifer Mills warns against ‘strong beginnings’ petering out. As for endings, ‘a short story doesn’t have to have a neat ending, but it should turn – it should show readers the moment something changes.’

Priscilla Long suggests making a list of ten things you want to include before you start such as objects, feelings, colours, places, people, events, particular phrases. Even if you haven’t done this, go back and see what’s survived the redrafting knife. Is this still the story you wanted to write?

After fine-combing through several times, the words that kick-started the piece might suddenly seem clunky. Some will be worth refashioning. Others won’t. Check every word is working as hard as the 499 other pistons hopefully chugging away in the engine room keeping the story ticking over. Even the seemingly insignificant ones such as ‘the’ and ‘and’ must pull their weight.

Reading aloud can help detect stumbles, flat spots, unintended repetitions, clumsy rhythms, clanging notes. Try to imagine you’re sitting on the other side of the editor’s desk, listening in. What would make this story leap straight over the ‘no’ pile and into the ‘yes’?

Some pieces will never amount to more than exercises. But the act of writing is never wasted. Set them aside for awhile, then revisit and try to see what you’d change in them now. Some pithy lines might even be salvageable for recycling elsewhere.

At this year’s Byron Writers Festival, Jeanette Winterson talked about the benefits of having a wood-burning stove in her study. Apparently she feeds it regularly with paper and ink. She also said that good writing of any length means putting ‘the right words in the right order’. Later, this was refined slightly. Good writing is about finding ‘the only words’ and putting them ‘in the only order’. No multiple choice. No ‘and/or’. There’s only one right word, or 500 right words. And it’s every writer’s job to pounce on them and place them where they can chug away, unfettered, at full capacity.

This article first appeared in the Northern Rivers Writers Centre’s newsletter northerly, November 2014.

Emma Ashmere’s short stories have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Spineless Wonders, Review of Australian Fiction, Sleepers Almanac, and on Brisbane billboards for #8wordstory. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Overland/NUW Fair Australia Prize, 2019 Newcastle Short Story Prize, and 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her debut novel The Floating Garden was shortlisted for the 2016 Small Press Network MUBA prize.

In extraordinary company: new Spinifex Press catalogue

Well, the new Spinifex Press 2014-2015 catalogue is just out – with the first glimpse of The Floating Garden.

Extraordinary company to be in – in more ways than one.

See more here.

 

The Floating Garden to be published in May 2015

Emma Ashmere’s first novel The Floating Garden can be pre-ordered here at Spinifex Press in May 2015.